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Malerin und Graphikerin
Julie Wolfthorn (1864-1944)

Painter and lithographer Julie Wolfthorn


Julie Wolfthorn was born January 8th,1864 as Julie Wolf in the small West Prussian(modern-day Poland) town of Thorn on the Weichsel River. During the mid-1890s, while living in Berlin and starting to establish herself more and more in the art scene, she added the name of her birthtown to her surname and from then on called herself "Wolfthorn". About her family, her childhood and her youth not much is known. Her parents died early. Julie was the youngest of five children. The family must have been open towards the fine arts, as a portrait of her brother Georg Wolf by Julie Wolfthorn shows him as a sculptor. Also her sister Luise Wolf, with whom she lived together throughout her whole life, translated literary, art and cultural study texts from Scandinavian languages, French and English into German.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Julie Wolfthorn was one of the leading female artists in Germany along with Käthe Kollwitz and Dora Hitz. She had become known chiefly through her portrait paintings. The names of the people painted and her clients can be read like an excerpt of a "Who's Who" of the Berlin society of those days:
Ida and Richard Dehmel, Hedwig Lachmann and Gustav Landauer, the families of the architects Muthesius und Behrens, the writer-authors Hedda Möller-Bruck, Dagny Juel-Przybyszewska and Gabriele Reuter, the pianist Conrad Ansorge and his wife Grete, the actresses Tilla Durieux, Maria Orska, and Carola Neher, the writer-authors Björn Björnson and Gerhart Hauptmann and his wife Margarethe, the publischer couple Emilie and Rudolf Mosse, the artist and colleague Christian Rohlfs - just to name a few. At the turn of the century, she settled in Berlin's Tiergarten area and lived in a house at 50 Kurfürstenstraße for over forty years - interrupted by many stays in artist colonies like Worpswede, Dachau, Schreiberhau, Hiddensee, and Ascona as well as study travels to France. She also painted in Grez-sur-Loing (“Summer Afternoon in Grez”), Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

The beginning of the 1890s found Julie Wolfthorn in Paris where she studied at the famous private academy Colarossi. Many prospective female artists chose that option because in Germany of that time they were not accepted into the academies until 1919. Julie Wolfthorn prepared herself for Paris with drawing and painting lessons but we do not know when and where. Starting in the mid-1890s she exhibited her works in galleries and museums in Munich, Hamburg, Breslau, Mannheim, Weimar, Berlin and other cities. In the summer of 1897 she had her artistic breakthrough with a great pastel panel.

Julie Wolfthorn’s art has an impressionistic orientation, at times has converged to art nouveaux, and in later years towards the new factual style. In addition to her her more well-known portraits, landscapes and urban paintings, Genre Scenes, drawings, etchings, and graphic artworks also exist, as well as cover pages and illustrations of publications and art post cards of her work.

Numerous critical reviews, depictions of her works, and title pages in newspapers and journals like the “Berlin Tageblatt,” “Vossische Zeitung,” “Frau und Gegenwart,” “Westermanns Monatshefte,” “die Gartenlaube,” “Kunst der Zeit,” and many others made the artist widely well known. The National Gallery as well as other museums in Berlin have acquired her works.

In 1933 the life of the painter and graphic artist Julie Wolfthorn, who was of Jewish heritage, changed drastically. She was excluded from associations, was banned from publishing, and was only allowed to exhibit within the Jewish Cultural Association ("Jüdischer Kulturbund"), until being disbarred from being an artist in 1939. In October 1942 she and her sister were deported to the concentration camp Theresienstadt. There she survived for more than two years and died in December 1944, shortly before her 81st birthday. While she was in Theresienstadt, she managed to continue her work. In April 2003 so called “stumbling stones” (Stolpersteine) were placed at 50 Kurfürstenstraße in Berlin, honoring both Julie Wolfthorn and her sister Luise Wolf.

In 2007 my thesis titled “Rekonstruktion eines Künsterlinnenlebens - Leben und Werk der Malerin und Graphikerin Julie Wolfthorn (1864 - 1944)” (Reconstruction of an Artist’s Life - Life and Oevre of the painter and graphic artist Julie Wolfthorn (1864 - 1944)) at the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel was completed. The thesis has been published: http://www.tectum-verlag.de/leben-und-werk-der-malerin-und-graphikerin-julie-wolfthorn-1864-1944.html

As always, I am looking forward to all information, that pertains to Julie Wolfthorn and her ambit, and will be happy to hear from correspondents. If it is desired, any information can be held in strict confidence.